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As Kareem Jackson prepares for return to Houston, his knowledge and play could be difference for Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Texans' loss could be the Broncos' gain.

Safety Kareem Jackson will travel to Houston this weekend for his first game against his former team since he joined the Broncos in free agency before this season — and the former Texan could prove critical in Denver's efforts to slow down the league's 10th-ranked scoring offense.

And while he hasn't told the media that the homecoming game means more than a regular game, his teammate Justin Simmons can tell it does.

"I think when you guys talk to him, I'm sure he'll give the, 'It's another week, obviously it means something a little bit more,'" Simmons said Tuesday, "but I know he's really locked in on this week. It means a lot to us to go down there and get a win for him, too."

Jackson, a 2010 first-round pick, spent the first nine years of his career in Houston, mainly at the cornerback position. He played limited snaps at the safety position in 2018 before injuries to other players pushed him back to cornerback.

Now in a new city and a full-time safety, Jackson is showing the same ability he demonstrated in Houston for Texans Coach Bill O'Brien.

"He's playing really well," O'Brien told Denver media on Tuesday. "He's a really good tackler, a physical player, instinctive player. He's playing at a really high level."

But this week, Jackson can be more than just a player who has contributed to the Broncos' resurgent run defense and a pass defense that ranks fifth in the NFL.

"Just this morning, you have our coaching staff break down their personnel a little bit, but we had Kareem get up there," Simmons said. "He was with them the longest obviously and he knows what they do — he [saw] it every day in practices when he was there. Just having him break down personnel, talking about what they like to do and don't like to do — things like that — it's a real benefit for game-plan preparation going into the week."

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has played against Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins enough to know the All-Pro receiver's tendencies, but Harris said Jackson can help him in other ways.

"Really, he just gives me a few more tidbits of what they can do," Harris said. "Just overall on the offensive scheme and Bill O'Brien and how he thinks, K-Jack can definitely help with that."

The Broncos will need to be at their best against the AFC South leaders who just knocked off the previously 10-1 Patriots at NRG Stadium.

Third-year quarterback Deshaun Watson is on pace to set career highs in completion percentage and touchdown passes — and he may be the biggest challenge for Denver's defense.

"Yeah, you have to cover for a long time with this guy," said Harris of Watson. "As soon as he does [scramble], it's just like him and Hopkins have great timing because he just runs deep right after. They have great connection with that. That's what he's looking for. He's looking for the home-run ball."

Jackson and Simmons will be in the defensive backfield to ensure that Watson doesn't connect with Hopkins on those deep passes.

After facing off against the duo in practice over the last two years, Jackson will now face the two players in live action.

The Broncos' defense will do its best to make sure it's a happy homecoming.

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